Establishing a New Clinical Specialty Area

A petitioning group for a proposed new specialty area may apply to the Council for Clinical Certification in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CFCC) for official recognition from ASHA as a Specialty Certification Board. Through this application process, the petitioning group outlines how it intends to meet the tenets for Clinical Specialty Certification as a Specialty Certification Board. Each petitioning group must adopt and implement specialty certification standards. Once approved, each Specialty Certification Board is fully autonomous and operates independently from ASHA.

If you have questions about any proposed specialty certification board or to request information on petitioning for a new specialty area, applying for grant funding, or to request the Application for Petitioning Groups, you may email specialtycertification@asha.org. When questions and comments that concern a proposed area of specialty certification are received, they are immediately forwarded to the CFCC's CCSC and to the chair of that petitioning group/proposed Specialty Certification Board. Questions and comments are always given full attention and consideration by the CCSC; however, due to the independent nature of the Specialty Certification Boards, only the boards can provide specific details about the certification they are developing because the information is proprietary to them.

There is a two-stage application process to establish a new area of practice for specialty certification.

Stage 1

In Stage 1, a petitioning group identifies its intention to formally apply for the creation of a Specialty Certification Board in a proposed specialty area and includes sufficient detail to enable the Committee on Clinical Specialty Certification (CCSC) to make initial decisions regarding the appropriateness of the request. The petitioning group must clearly define the potential specialty area, the population of consumers, demonstrate that the group is composed of practitioners who provide service in that area, and specify how they meet the tenets for specialty certification.  

If approved by the CCSC, the petitioning group has exclusive rights to the proposed specialty area for 18 months. No other group can petition to establish specialty certification in that area during that time.

Stage 2

In Stage 2, the petitioning group defines the proposed clinical specialty certification program and demonstrates how the program will comply with the specialty certification standards, which include:

  • ASHA Certification: Individual practitioners must currently hold the appropriate ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC).
  • Post-Certification Experience: A minimum of three years (or full-time equivalent) with evidence of work with clinical populations in the area of specialty certification that is sought.
  • Clinical Experience in the Specialty Area: Documented evidence of a minimum of 450 hours of direct clinical contact in the area of specialization.
  • Continuing Education: A minimum of 60 intermediate or advanced continuing education/ professional development hours in the area of specialty certification in the immediate 3 years prior to applying.
  • Assessment of Knowledge, Skills, and Experience: Each applicant must pass the assessment mechanism (e.g., standard examination, portfolio review, practical exam, structured interview) that the specific Specialty Certification Board has established, based upon results of their extensive practice analysis study.
  • Each Specialty Certification Board must also have processes for certification maintenance and renewal, and a process for revocation of specialty certification and appeals.

Prior to receiving Stage 2 approval, ASHA members are invited to send in their public comments about the potential new specialty area and petitioning group by completing a survey. The CCSC receives and uses the survey information to make informed decisions about permitting the petitioning group to move forward with the next phases of the process.

Specialty Certification Board Formation

Following Stage 2 approval by the CCSC, the petitioning group is permitted to move forward with establishing their Specialty Certification Board, which includes these additional steps that must be completed before the board becomes operational and able to accept applications.

  • Establishing the Specialty Certification Board as a fully independent organization, which includes creating their board manual and becoming legally incorporated.
  • Initiating operations, which includes management/administrative services, creative their webpage, and marketing.
  • Conducting a formalized practice analysis study and peer review.
  • Developing an assessment mechanism.

The later stages of formation can take 24–48 months to complete. During this time, the CCSC has the authority to review a Specialty Certification Board's application. The CCSC may request additional information, and request that revisions are made, if warranted, as the petitioning group moves through the final steps. Once all remaining steps are complete, the CCSC and the CFCC conduct a final review of the Specialty Certification Board's program in its entirety. Once final approval is issued, the Specialty Certification Board is officially recognized by ASHA.  

Tenets for Clinical Specialty Certification

(effective through October 31, 2019)

A petitioning group's proposed specialty certification area must meet the following tenets. 

  1. The specialty area is unique from and does not critically overlap the scope of an existing specialty certification.
  2. The specialty area affects a definable population of clients/patients whose needs require a distinct body of knowledge, skills, and experience.
  3. The specialty area represents a distinct and definable body of knowledge and skills, grounded in basic applied research, as well as in principles derived from professional practice.
  4. The specialty area is one in which individual practitioners currently practice and/or are required for delivery of services to clients/patients.
  5. The specialty area has mechanisms for acquisition of the required knowledge, skills, and experience.   

Revised Tenets for Clinical Specialty Certification

(effective November 1, 2019)

  1. The specialty area is unique from, and does not overlap, the scope of an existing specialty certification area.
  2. The specialty area
    • serves a definable population of clients/patients whose needs require a distinct body of knowledge, skills, and experience; or
    • directly affects the provision of services to clients/patients whose needs require a distinct body of knowledge, skills, and experience.
  3. The specialty area represents a distinct and definable body of knowledge and skills, grounded in translational and evidence-based research and practice, as well as in principles derived from professional practice.
  4. The specialty area is intended for those who provide direct services or engage in service provision to clients/patients.
  5. The specialty area has mechanisms for acquisition of the required knowledge, skills, and experience.

Grant Program

ASHA began a clinical specialty certification grant program to assist with start-up costs incurred by petitioning groups and newly-approved Specialty Certification Boards in order to increase the feasibility of establishing new specialty areas. Funding is criteria-based, and is awarded and disbursed in conjunction with distinct phases of the petitioning or specialty board formation process. 

For more information about the grant program, contact specialtycertification@asha.org.    

Approved Specialty Areas 

The following Specialty Certification Boards have been approved and are in the process of creating their specialty certification programs.

Stage 1 Approval  

None at this time.

Stage 2 Approval

Autism Spectrum Disorder 
(approved July 19, 2016)
Petitioning group contact: 
Lynn Koegel
Clinical Professor
Stanford School of Medicine, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Palo Alto, California
lynnkoegel@gmail.com   

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
(approved June 22, 2018)
Petitioning group contact: 
Katya Hill
Associate Professor at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
AAC Institute
khill@aacinstitute.org 

Voice and Upper Airway Disorders 
(approved November 6, 2018) 
Petitioning group contact: 
Dr. Joseph Stemple 
Professor, Division of Communication Sciences and Disorders 
University of Kentucky, College of Health Sciences 
jcstem2@uky.edu  

ASHA Corporate Partners